Chronic Pain Can Be Detected In Equine EEGs

Chronic pain is difficult to assess as it involves subjective emotional and cognitive facets. There has been increasing interest in using electroencephalograms (EEGs), which measures brain waves, on resting horses to help determine if the horse is experiencing chronic pain. EEGs have been used as a tool in human medicine to help decipher chronic pain.

Riding horses are prone to chronic back pain; horses that experience this pain show lower levels of engagement and shorter attention spans. Drs. Mathilde Stomp, Serenella d’Ingeo, Séverine Henry, Clémence Lesimple, Hugo Cousillas and Martine Hausberger hypothesized that horses with chronic back pain would have resting-state EEGs that differed from horses that were pain-free.

The researchers fitted 18 horses with a headset and a telemetric recorder. The horses stood in a covered arena while they underwent back evaluations that noted the back’s shape and muscular tension, as well as took precise spinal measurements. Thirteen of the horses had surface electromyography (sEMG) exams to measure muscle activity; each horse was monitored for 60 minutes to see if they had any stereotypic behavior.

The scientists found that the horses had consistent EEG profiles over time. Horses that were assessed as having back pain had resting-state EEGs that had more fast waves and fewer slow waves. The study team also linked back tension to the frequency of stereotypic behaviors. They scientists concluded that resting-state EEGs are a promising tool to assess chronic back pain in horses.

Read the full study here.

Read more at HorseTalk.

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